Kabali…my thoughts


KabaliThe release of a movie of Rajnikanth is a festival in itself…from the announcement, to the first look, the decked up theatres, the fan frenzy, and now of course the craze on social media as well. It’s apparent that people buy into the mania, the celebration, the pride of the ‘first day first show ‘ ticket, and the kind of hype that surrounds the movie, rather than the movie itself. I’ve observed this happening from the past few years, and increasing exponentially with time. Well…Kabali may be the subtle, yet strong signal to all of us that the superstar has had enough of only playing to the gallery, and now wants to go back to performances.

So how’s the movie?

Kabali ( and note here that everytime I type the name, it capitalises itself!) is a gangster movie, which could have gone one of two ways. The first, a more over the top, dialogue fest with plenty of unbelievable action and gore. Thankfully, Kabali steers towards the second, which has the undercurrent of tension, yet packed with emotion and substance. From the word go, the director aims to keep the viewer guessing as to what happens next, and throws in dollops of subtle emotion as the story unravels. I use the word subtle here many a time, since a Rajni movie is usually far from subtle. And this is what may prove to be a challenge…getting the hardcore fan base to accept a ‘lesser than larger than life’ Rajini.

The movie has a good supporting cast, and now we know why Radhika Apte was chosen to play his wife..she manages to do what many cant in a Rajini movie- get noticed. The rest are fine, but of course, you can have a subtle Rajini, but he is the superstar nevertheless. He strides into the screen with a presence that other actors can only dream of, with a director trying to get him to control his irrepressible style, and failing. For style it is, when he walks, when he looks, when he talks. Hell, even when he is just sitting. That’s one thing you can’t ask to get rid of, he was born with him and it will go with him (Padayappa!).

But the dancing around trees…that’s on its way out. And it feels great. After long, I saw glimpses of his depth in acting that I was missing. Rajini, you are are much better actor than a star. It’s a pity that we, your fans, have caged you in this superstardom, and in the process, suppressed the fine actor in you. But no, it’s time. The destiny of a bird is what takes it soaring. Keeping it caged has only made it sad and while the owner thinks it’s protecting it from the vultures, it’s only harming it’s destiny. Truly spoken in Kabali…and we understand. Soar high, we your fans will always be here…





Sultan – Bollywood movie – my thoughts..

There is a kind of Salman Khan movie that one leaves one’s brain behind and still doesn’t enjoy (Kick, Ready). The king of Eid is back with his latest offering, and thankfully, this one falls in the “watchable AND enjoyable” genre.

Salman Khan in Sultan

What is it with Salman and Eid? Well, a trend that he started in 2009 continues till this day, with other actors following suit booking their own holidays. So it’s SRK in Diwali, Aamir on Christmas and Akshay on Republic Day, leaving the other poor souls to scamper for the scraps. Nevertheless, this trend has resulted in lesser movie clashes, big bucks and the Rajinikanth-style Bhai-mania. For Bhai is a different genre now. And boy do his movies rake in the money!

So what’s Sultan all about? Take a blender, pour in a generous portion of Rocky, a dash of Chak De India, a teaser of Dangal and a whole dollop of Bhai, blend and serve with garnish of Anushka and Randeep. Toppings include an above-average soundtrack and a whole lot of videshi fighters all willing to fight the Bhai in the Mumbai (and we all know how that would end up)…

Nevertheless, Sultan is enjoyable. Very. Ignore the obvious liberties taken with the story (I mean really, one month is all it takes to dhobi-pacchad seasoned wrestlers??), this is a bhai-story after all. Surprisingly, the second half is better than the first, with the MMA action taking center stage and Sultan conquering his demons and well..emerging victorious (what, you really thought Bhai could lose??).

Salman brings to the table an honesty that was last seen in Dabangg, and to a certain extent in Bajrangi Bhaijaan. He owns the role, and looks the part. Actually, I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing this role. No, not even Akshay with his martial arts background. This needed a beefed up body and a humble yet fierce look, that Salman perfects to the T. The signature style of his is clap worthy, hell, whistle worthy too! A brief part in the first half has him relive his Dabangg-esque swagger, but the second half is completely the warm hearted Bhai that he is portrayed to be.

Anushka is perfect in her role, and speaks volumes without even saying a word in some scenes. She could have put on some weight for this though. Randeep Hooda is seen very little, but leaves his stamp in his 5-minute role. The supporting cast, like in all recent Bhai films, is exceptional.

Sultan is long at 2 hours 48 minutes. But boring moments are few, and the culmination is satisfying. I do smell a whiff of a sequel in the air as well. Come out fast, Sultan 2, we are anxiously waiting for you. Rolled up sleeves n all.

Kuro-obi -and then?

Shihan Rohit

A black belt in Karate is an achievement…a big achievement. Its a culmination of years of blood and sweat, of hard toil, of pain and perseverance. A Kyokushin Karate black belt is even more treasured, since it carries with it a silent testimony of hard practice and a spirit of never-give-up. But what happens next?

Kuro-obi. The very word carries a certain amount of mysticism and awe. The first thing you hear when you tell someone about your practice in Karate is – are you a black belt? People respect the kuro-obi. They may not know what exactly it means to go through the years and years of grueling training, but they do have an idea.

But is the black belt the destination?

Over the years, I have seen many black belts, most from the early days of their endeavor. What starts out as a passion, reaches its peak on the day the belt is achieved. And then…mostly a downward curve. The practice stops, the passion recedes, and all that is left is the thirst for misplaced power and an additional Dan. The cornerstone of martial arts is discipline, and yet, this is the first to be forsaken.

Doesn’t a black belt carry more than just your karate pants? Is there no responsibility towards the art, towards learning more and most importantly, towards justifying the kuro-obi?

The black belt is the first step in a long journey. Of self-discovery. Of challenges. Of self-realization. The explosive power of Tensho and the finesse of Kanku. The calmness of meditation and the organised chaos of the Kihons. Immerse yourself in them. Re-discover the art that you had so much passion for. And then you will feel the steps…the sound of you moving ahead.

In the words of Miyamoto Musashi…

If you wish to control others…you must first control yourself!

Neerja – Bollywood movie – My thoughts…

Neerja_PosterI had been eager to watch Neerja, from the time the first trailers came out a little more than a month ago. The premise was interesting, the story largely forgotten, but intriguing nevertheless…and Sonam Kapoor playing the protagonist. Not my absolutely favorite actress ( or should i say actor, to be politically correct). However, having observed cabin crew from close quarters lately, I was interested to see how the director Ram Madhvani would handle this subject…more on that later.

A bit on cabin crew. Largely perceived as a job that requires little skill other than looking pretty (a point spelt out by Neerja’s ex-husband in the movie), cabin crew often find themselves being judged unfairly, much like persons who work in the contact centre industry. The reality is that this is one hard job, that comes with irregular hours making body clocks go haywire, having to deal with propositions from strangers and friends alike, and requiring a high level of patience and calmness that can be tested to limits. The movie does touch the surface of the realities of this job, and doesn’t go deeper than it needs to.

Back to the movie. Opening with a short peak into Neerja’s family, we find ourselves on the plane within the first 10-15 minutes. Two stories run in parallel, and in contrast – Neerja preparing for her first flight as head purser, and the terrorists preparing for the assault. In fact, a lot of sections of the movie have two stories running in parallel, one the present and the other the past experiences of Neerja (good and bad) that she is reminded of, that give her strength in the times of the crisis at hand. I found this approach very refreshing and taut,  rather than having a separate flashback for the backstory.

The pace is fast, nervous and the screenplay is tight. Not once do we get the chance to shake off the tension, and a lot of credit for this goes to the actors who portray the terrorists. They are raw, uncouth and vile – a no holds barred performance that should definitely win multiple awards next season (or given the way Bollywood awards work, maybe not).

The supporting cast is first rate.  Yogendray Tiku and Shabana Azmi play the parents, with Shabana demonstrating her acting finesse especially in the last 15 minutes. The other actors play their parts well, thus completing a well casted movie.

But what about Sonam Kapoor?

Neerja’s heroism was not common. She was not part of any army, nor trained to deal with terrorists holding guns in her face. People would give up for much less, but not Neerja. She demonstrated an extraordinary level of courage, and gave the ultimate sacrifice performing her job and saving hundreds of lives, where such a sacrifice was not expected. She went far beyond her call of duty, and ended up being the youngest recipient of the Ashok Chakra, India’s highest peacetime military award for bravery.

Portraying such a character is no easy feat. Anushka could have done it well, Kangna, for all her acting prowess, may have been slightly miscast. Sonam Kapoor, on the other hand, brushes aside all my apprehensions and delivers her finest performance till date (and I suspect, for a long, long time). It isn’t like this was a flawless performance, but was fantastic nevertheless. I would go as far as to say that Sonam was the best choice for the role. The way she oscillates between fear and strength, trying to deal with situations that no one could have prepared her for, is exceptional. She may not win many awards for this, since its too early in the year to decide, but nominated she will be in all. Sonam – you have just about won a fan…

Neerja is a movie that doesn’t come about so often. And Neerja is a person that one doesn’t come across so often either. Two reasons that are good enough for you to watch the movie, in case you haven’t as yet. Go. Book. See. Love. Revere.

Of fresh starts…

Life-Positive-Scorpion-028628-000003.PAnother year goes by…

So what does one do on New Year? The same old party-greetings-celebration routine? Or the ignore-everything its just another day routine?

Personally, its a bit of both. Milestones on a highway are meant to be places where one pauses, looks back to see how far one has come, and looks ahead to see how far one has to go. I treat the new year as one such milestone (the other being my birthday). So how did I start 2015? How did it end? Am I in a better place, in a better frame of mind…with better people?

A lot happened this year. Some good, some bad. But life is after all a mixed bag. These affect me lesser and lesser as the years go by; rather, I count these as experiences and try to learn from them. The people who went away, well – we had good times (maybe) but it ran its course…the people who came close – its exciting to see where and how far on this journey we can continue…

2016 is an important year for me, personally and professionally. A lot of important decisions, a lot of challenges, new and old. No resolutions, since I believe that if you want to do something, don’t look for a milestone to start. But yes, exciting to look ahead not because life will be a cakewalk, but because it will present a whole lot of opportunities and learnings. And pain. And smiles.

Here is looking forward to a bit of everything. A slice of life..

Wish you all a very happy 2016:) Some more than others 🙂

Tamasha – Bollywood movie – my thoughts…

Tamasha_(film_poster).jpgLove. Strikes in the most unexpected of places. I met her at a place that I didn’t frequent…nor did she. But struck a chord. We didn’t know each other, and well, thats what made it even more exciting. Spent some time…had a laugh..a lot of laughs actually. I liked spending time with her, it held promise…of a togetherness that was not ordinary…was special. Her hug was special, and so was the way I looked at her…

And then the kiss. Again, unexpected…more of a peck rather. But a kiss nevertheless. A flutter in my heart…can this be true? Drawn inexplicably into this vortex, finding myself being me, and she felt the same. Why conform when you can break out, share stories that don’t have to make any sense, lose sense of time just by running fingers through her hair…

A seperation. Not much in touch…discovering life without each other. Was it the same? Maybe. Maybe not. What mattered is the discovery. Time spent without her was time spent not being me. Not enjoyable at all. What mattered then is the coming back. But then things were not the same…were they?

Awkwardness. She searches something that I don’t have in me. Or maybe I haven’t seen it in myself yet. That too is a kind of discovery isn’t it? Gets boring since we busy being someone else. Trying to conform once again, this time together….

I fell in love…ALMOST.

But you know what? This is my story. I don’t like the ending. The good thing is that I can change it. Its up to me after all, coz I am the storyteller. And I am the story. Tha ret (sand), dikha paani (water)…so what? Grab a bottle, pour the water on the sand. Its as simple as that.

The best thing about a non-linear story is that you can shift the paragraphs and change the story, and yet make sense. This is non-linear,so feel free to do so. After all my love, this is your story too:)

Tamasha. Playing in a cinema near you. Or in the life that you are living. All depends on how you see it!

Of ghats, gangajal and invocations

Durga puja

Kolkata. The name evokes memories of history, heritage, art, food…and Durga Puja. As the flight descends on this city, a breathtaking view emerges. Kolkata, dressed in all its finery, all set to welcome Maa Durga. The festive atmosphere is unparalleled, the enthusiasm undiminished. The taxi meanders through tight lanes, with people spilling over each other, yet walking on, witnessing the spectacle that is Durga Puja. For Durga is in every corner, every lane, every rajbari…

Durga puja

One often wonders when this festival actually started. Was it this way even a hundred years back? Origins differ, but consensus is that the age old zamindars of Bengal started this public celebration, and it grew over the years to become what is now called the largest outdoor art festival on earth. Every year, pandals compete with each other in coming up with innovative, or creative pujos as they are known locally, and well, the result is just too mesmerising to limit itself to a description of a few mundane words. Tourists and locals alike, walk all over the city, hopping from pandal to pandal, absorbing the atmosphere, and having one big party.

But some get to witness a more personal experience. Barir pujo, or house pujas, are conducted in many traditional houses, big and small. It is a tough task, not only due to the expense but also due to the time and effort it takes to organize one over a period of 10 days. The most traditional houses make their own idols…and in some, the head of the house makes the idol himself. What an experience that is…making the Goddess come to life, the passionate devotion, where hours and days do not count, the hands only rest when the eyes are finally painted thus bringing the Goddess to life…

Durga puja

As the Vedic chants take over, the chimes of the dhaak and the blowing of the shank rent the air, and the devotees welcome Maa into their home, worship her, take care of her. They are happy that she has graced their abode, and they do their best to make her happy. A lot of pujas take place during this 10-day period, each day  and each puja having a significance and a purpose. Guests, known and unknown, come home to see Maa Durga, pray to her, and ask for blessings. It is a period when nothing else matters, just worship and celebration.

Durga puja

On the 10th day, the final set of pujas are conducted. Guests are fed, and preparations are made for the final farewell. Sindur Khela, where married women of the house smear vermillion on each others faces and celebrate by praying to Maa Durga and feeding her, marks the bidding farewell. The head of the house then leads the procession towards the Ganga ghat, where the Goddess will be immersed, with cries of Joy Maa Durga, and asking her to return the next year, again and again…

Back home, one feels a vacuum. Her presence is still there, yet one misses the fervour of the past few days…a bittersweet moment. One sits back and thinks about how a seemingly passive idol can invoke such passion and devotion…so much caring…so much love…

Durga puja

A very successful Bollywood movie called PK, starred Aamir Khan and had quite a few non-complimentary things to say about worshipping stones. Those priests make you a fool, it claimed. God resides everywhere, not in lifeless idols. Well Mr. Aamir Khan, a stone is a stone. But it is the beauty of the human spirit, the emotional connect that binds us as human beings, the love that is so hard to describe but so easy to feel, that brings life into that stone. An idol is a personification of the love that we as humans have for God, it is this love that can make us see God in anything. It is this love that brings tears of joy into our eyes as we see the Goddess drift away…knowing that she will return. Not because she isn’t everywhere already, but because she would like to see us celebrate once again next year. God is happiness, God is celebration, and God is in you. Once in a while however, God has to remind us of this.

And that is why she makes us create, celebrate and then let go. Do you want to experience the God in you? Visit a barir pujo in Kolkata. You may just fall in love…AGAIN.

all photos courtesy Ghosh Barir Pujo, Sovabazar, Kolkata